If you’ve ever been in a car accident, you know that the moments following can be incredibly confusing and hectic, particularly if there are injuries involved. It’s hard to think straight, but this is one of those times where thinking straight is really important. Coming up with a plan and knowing what you should do in the event of an accident will ensure that you don’t make decisions or take actions that will result in negative long-term effects. Here are six steps you must take after an accident. Take some time today to sit down and review these with all of the drivers in your family.
Step 1: Get all of the driver’s information, such as license plate number, driver’s license, and insurance information. The tag number is particularly important, as some drivers don’t update changed insurance or address information. In addition, write down a physical description of the other driver. Unfortunately not everyone is honest, and writing down a description of the driver can help in situations in which the driver later claims he or she wasn’t present at the accident.
Step 2: Call the police. The police will insure that proper information is gathered about the driver. This is particularly important if the other driver caused injuries. If you can’t properly identify the person who injured you, you’ll have a hard time collecting damages. The police will also call towing and emergency medical vehicles if needed, and, if the accident is severe enough, will write a police report. This report will describe how the accident occurred, as well as who is at fault.
Step 3: Get witness statements. If there were witnesses to your accident, get them to make statements while you are waiting for the police to arrive. This is particularly important if you believe the other driver was at fault, but he or she is disagreeing with your version of events. It’s best to ask witnesses to wait until police arrive so they can give a statement directly to them, but if that’s not possible at least get their contact information, so police can later get in touch.
Step 4: Take pictures. Take as many pictures of the accident scene as possible. If you don’t have a camera with you, use the camera feature on your cell phone. If you believe your accident was caused by poorly designed roadways, improperly placed barriers, trees or telephone poles that were in the way, etc., be sure to snap some some photos.
Step 5: Know where your car is going. If your car is going to be towed, find out where it is going, and leave explicit instructions that the car should not be fixed, destroyed, or meddled with. Your car may be evidence, and you want to make sure that all of the evidence is preserved.
Step 6: Contact your own insurance company. Let them know what happened immediately. This will allow them to investigate the accident, and will also help them process a claim should the driver at fault not have insurance or be underinsured.